The Native American Development Corporation is working hard to get the Billings Indian Urban Health and Wellness Center up and running.
The longtime Billings-based training and technical assistance center was awarded the federal contract for the center Feb. 1 by the Billings area office of the Indian Health Service. About 5,900 urban Indians live in the Billings area.
The contract runs for 12 months at a time and is in effect for five years. The NADC will receive a maximum of $764,088 from the IHS annually to cover the clinic’s costs, but it can also seek grants or other sources of income to add additional services.
The corporation’s goal is two-pronged, NADC Executive Director Leonard Smith said Wednesday. It plans to offer quality services but also to "implement a plan to be sustainable."
Until now, the NADC has focused its efforts on enabling Native individuals and small businesses to succeed, providing them with help, funding opportunities and connections to help them reach their goals. More recently, the organization has been trying to establish an Indian Center in Billings, Smith said.
“We started having meetings, and we were asked by those at the meetings to get involved in this IHS contract for an urban Indian health clinic,” Smith said. “So we started developing strategies to do that and submitted a proposal.”
The former urban Indian clinic in Billings, the Indian Health Board of Billings, closed in May 2017. Since then, people eligible for the clinic’s services have had to travel to the Crow/Northern Cheyenne Hospital in Crow Agency or the Pryor Health Station for services.
This is the NADC’s first foray into health care. Smith and his staff are working with the IHS, other urban Indian health clinics in the state, and hospitals and clinics in Billings and on area reservations to develop plans and forge partnerships.
Putting together a medical clinic from the ground up is a huge job, Smith said. The NADC must meet certain time-sensitive goals.
“In the first three months we’re required to set up transportation services and put in all the processes and procedures required for a clinic,” Smith said.
One of its first jobs is to lease a van to transport patients to Crow Agency or Pryor for medical services. That will ensure patients get the care they need until the clinic is up and running.
An operations manager will be hired to renovate a space for the clinic and hire personnel to provide medical and mental health services. The wellness side of the clinic will be to provide patients with education and preventive care.
“We are mandated by contract to provide certain services,” Smith said. “That doesn’t mean we will provide all of them here. We could do some of that by making referrals.”
The NADC just recently purchased a building at 17 N. 26th Street. Its offices are on the second floor, and the first floor will be remodeled to house exam rooms and offices.
The NADC plans to hold an open house there on April 10.
The corporation is also in talks with area reservations to provide a waiting room adjacent to the clinic and offices for nurses to meet with tribal members.
For the present time, the NADC’s board will also serve as the board of the Billings Indian Urban Health and Wellness Center. An advisory board for the clinic also has been put together, and that board will drop "advisory" from its name once the nonprofit status for the clinic is secured.
Smith also is the interim director of the clinic, but eventually the new clinic will have a director of its own. It all takes time, but the goal is to have everything in place by the end of the year.
“We’ve got to focus on quality, to have the right people on staff,” Smith said. “We’ve got to spend a lot of time on infrastructure to make it ready for the long haul.”